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Norwich sixth formers over the moon after winning schools space race contest

PUBLISHED: 16:55 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:55 21 September 2017

Two students from Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form have won top prize in the School Space Race after their balloon craft reached 33,000km.
 From left to right - professor Kay Yeomon, of UEA and Research Councils UK, Mark Dumpleton, staff at Sir Isaac Newton, student Tom Briggs, James Harley, staff at Sir Isaac Newton, Gavin Paterson, from Yellowbric nad David Mack from Genatec. Picture: Inspiration Trust

Two students from Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form have won top prize in the School Space Race after their balloon craft reached 33,000km. From left to right - professor Kay Yeomon, of UEA and Research Councils UK, Mark Dumpleton, staff at Sir Isaac Newton, student Tom Briggs, James Harley, staff at Sir Isaac Newton, Gavin Paterson, from Yellowbric nad David Mack from Genatec. Picture: Inspiration Trust

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Sixth formers in Norwich have scooped the top prize in a space race after the craft they designed reached a staggering 33,000 metres.

Two students from Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form have won top prize in the School Space Race after their balloon craft reached 33,000km. One of the images taken by the on-board camera. Picture: Inspiration TrustTwo students from Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form have won top prize in the School Space Race after their balloon craft reached 33,000km. One of the images taken by the on-board camera. Picture: Inspiration Trust

Tom Briggs and Paul Lamberton, who study at Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, built their craft as part of a challenge organised by educational charity Yellowbric.

The Schools Space Race competition pitted them against four other schools in Norfolk - Flegg High, City of Norwich School, Norwich School and Reepham High - as well as five schools in Africa.

With help from Sir Isaac ICT staff Mark Dumpleton and James Hartley, the pair put together a helium balloon-fuelled ship that could safely carry a mini Raspberry Pi computer and camera high into the sky - and also survive the journey back down to earth.

They also had to program the computer to take photos of the journey, and calculate the right amount of gas to take the balloon as high as possible but without risking a flight time that could see it fall into the sea.

All five UK balloons were released at Elsworth, near Cambridge, which has permanent approval from the Civil Aviation Authority for the release of high altitude balloons.

In the end their unmanned craft reached 33,000 metres - around three times the height of a commercial airplane and a clear 3000 metres higher than their nearest rivals.

Tom Briggs said: “Winning was a bit down to luck, but we also put a lot of work into making sure everything was as light as possible. We also had to make sure the computer, the camera and the antenna would keep working.”

The craft also carried a special Gravity Fox mascot designed by students at their partner school, Bondzeni High School in South Africa, featuring an apple to represent Sir Isaac and a fox as an animal common to Norfolk.

The successful flight earned the pair a £1,000 prize from Norfolk renewable energy firm and competition sponsor Genatec, which will be spent on astronomy equipment for fellow students at their sixth form.

The project was also supported by Research Councils UK and the Institute of Physics.

Do you have an education story we should be writing about? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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